Seniors are ready to shake off their cabin fever and return to international and domestic travel, but not without a small dose of scepticism, two years on from the first border closures.
According to new research by Australian Seniors, while 74 per cent of over 50s are already planning their next big holiday, their outlook on travel has changed. The pandemic, ongoing international conflicts, effects of climate change, and widespread uncertainty have altered travel patterns and preferences.
And, with cost-of-living pressures rising, it’s no surprise that most seniors don’t feel comfortable travelling abroad without travel insurance.
Commissioned by Australian Seniors in partnership with consumer research group, CoreData, the Travel Trends Report surveyed more than 1000 Australians aged over 50 to uncover how the community is engaging with travel post-pandemic.
The findings suggest that the majority are wary of visiting Eastern Europe due to threats of the war in Ukraine, and similarly deterred from travelling to Turkey and the Middle East due to ongoing conflict and terrorism.
Almost two-thirds are concerned about travelling to Hong Kong, China, and South Korea due to ongoing Covid-19 health orders and lockdowns.
With 66 per cent having waited three years or more since their last big holiday, it’s not surprising that a trip to Europe tops the list as the most popular destination, with 29 per cent planning a European getaway.
However, with 54 per cent still mindful of Covid-related risks, it’s hard to overlook the security of domestic travel plans. Interstate Australian destinations followed closely in second place and more than a third are more likely to consider travelling around Australia now than two years ago.
“This is great news for the Australian tourism sector, particularly regional and coastal tourism locations that can continue to expect steady visitation from the seniors market,” Associate Professor in Tourism at the University of Queensland Gabby Walters said.
“Travelling domestically presents significantly less risk and more certainty around travel planning for seniors. Travelling to overseas destinations requires a lot more planning and preparation compared to pre-Covid times.”
She said there was also uncertainty in relation to foreign Covid policies and travel restrictions and access to medical treatment if required and that many foreign countries were still in recovery mode.
Many over 50s are using the resurgence in travel as an opportunity to recover after a difficult few years, with almost two in three saying that relaxation was the main motivation for their travel plans.
According to the survey, 40 per cent are seeking historical and cultural immersions for their next holiday, with Europe taking out top spot for this experience.
Other popular holiday experiences include wildlife and nature discovery, quality time with family and relaxation. North America, Australia and South-East Asia respectively, are preferred destinations for these.
Cruises are making a comeback after falling out of favour following the events of 2020, with more than three in five seniors considering a cruise.
On the other hand, seniors are also wary of the increasing unaffordability of travel amid the rising cost of living in Australia, with 80 per cent agreeing that holidays are getting more difficult to afford.
While 86 per cent of over 50s say they usually dip into their personal savings to fund holidays, 21 per cent have accumulated travel credits due to cancellations over the past few years, although more than a third admit the process of redeeming the credits is hard.
Additionally, three in five Australians over 50 agree that they’re more likely to consider travel insurance now, with top concerns including requiring hospitalisation, facing unexpected medical costs or encountering a new disease outbreak while on holiday.
“The travel sector is very much in the early stages of recovery and Covid-19 is still causing great disruption, however there are a number of actions travellers can take to ensure they are protected should things not go to plan,” Prof Walters said.
“Pay close attention to cancellation policies of accommodation providers and airlines. Some will offer a credit while others will offer full refunds. If a credit is the only option, it is important to check the terms and conditions of the redemption – some are more restrictive than others.”
If travelling overseas, check the status of the intended destination online at smarttraveller.gov.au and the equivalent host destination site.
Travel insurance is highly recommended for peace of mind. Pay close attention to the fine print, including checking whether cancellations, medical visits, or accommodation are covered in the event of contracting Covid.
Terms and conditions vary significantly between providers.